At the beginning of February 2011 I made a difficult photographic decision and finally sold my last Nikon film camera (an FM3A) and made a commitment to the Leica M system for 35mm photography.
Why did I leave a film camera system originating from 1959 for one started in 1954?
The Nikon FM3A has a justified reputation for reliability and durability, but Nikon has abandoned its film camera users. Spares are still available, but for how long? I want a film body that I can use for years to come.
Plenty of thinking and discussion went into the purchase of a used Leica in September 2009. They still manufacture film cameras; the M7 and MP, and repairs can still be carried out on any M camera built. Once you have handled a Leica M the feeling never leaves. The M has character, and dare I say soul. It balances beautifully in the hand thanks to the compact, solid design. Clean uncluttered lines, allied with fantastic performing, compact lenses give the bare essentials for supreme quality 35mm photography. Should you wish to personalise it then parts from other models are interchangeable. Leica M lenses are still sold new and the digital M cameras are designed around the original system so it all works nicely together.
What I find so annoying about the Nikon system is that the latest generation of Nikon lenses (inc primes) have no aperture control ring and therefore cannot be used with manual film cameras. The days of being able to use any Nikon F mount lens on any Nikon body is long gone. There were times the system was backward compatible; autofocus lenses could be used manually on a manual body. Nikon has abandoned those who have been loyal over the years and is catering for a much cheaper end of the market with it’s lightweight, throw-away small digital bodies that are not designed to last. It’s a never-ending bombardment of megapixels and superfluous new features. It’s not evolution; it is change sake for the sake of change. If this equipment evolved it would be around for much longer. Along came a small sensor (DX) and a whole new generation of lenses, and once you were in – out comes the FX full-frame sensor. Good job you kept those older F mount lenses – you did didn’t you?
It is a trait of manufacturers from the Far-East. I’m sure some will feel offended but that is far from my intention. I still use a Nikon D3 digital body, and will continue to do so because it does what I need. I rode Kawasaki’s for 15 years, they made unnecessary annual changes, I own a Honda car, guess what…
I’m finally starting to see things for what they are, and want a bit of character, personality, persona, call it what you like. I never, ever, thought I’d hear the day when I said I’d like a Harley-Davidson, not the cruisers; I mean the XR1200X, based on the flat-trackers. That’s got soul too..
Footnote: I’ve missed my FM3A so much that I’ve just purchased another. Of course it’ll last a lifetime and will shoot at maximum aperture on bright days with ISO 100 film thanks to its 1/4000th second shutter speed. That’s four times as fast as the Leica, so no Neutral Density filter is needed. And finally I can get in much closer for some shots, unlike the min. 70cm of the Leica. I now have the best of both worlds, both lens mounts were born in the 1950’s and are still in use today.